Archive by Author

Quick Smoke: Viaje Stuffed Turkey White Meat

20 Dec 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

As a vegan, this annual holiday season release is about as close to turkey as I get. The Stuffed Turkey, available in both White and Dark varieties, became a separate line this year after three years under the so-called White Label Project. The White Meat (5 x 58) sells for $10 and features Nicaraguan Aganorsa binder and filler tobaccos wrapped in a Criollo Aganora leaf. I found this cigar to be spicy and satisfying, changing intensity and flavors throughout. It’s a fine cigar for any time of year.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Commentary: Keeping After the FDA and Cigars

18 Dec 2014


Reading about the recently approved $1.1 trillion federal spending bill, it was hard not to wonder where cigars were. After all, the bill was larded with special provisions on topics from Army boots to cow manure.

It sure would have been nice if someone could have slipped in the provision barring the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed regulation of premium cigars that’s been bouncing around Capitol Hill for several years.

I talked to George Cecala in the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, the Floridian who’s a leader in pushing the bill. Cecala told me they tried before to get it into other legislation, and for those not directly involved in the process of assembling the bill, it wasn’t easy to get anything in.

Not that cigars were ignored altogether. A Cigar Rights of America (CRA) press release Wednesday highlighted what it called a “direct message being conveyed from the U.S. Congress to the FDA that premium cigars should not be regulated.”

It came, CRA reported, in the House Appropriations Committee’s funding report for the FDA: “…the Committee notes that FDA is considering excluding premium cigars from the scope of this proposed rule… The Committee believes this could be a viable solution, given that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act makes little mention of cigars throughout the legislation, and there is even less evidence that Congress intended to focus on the unique subset of premium cigars.”

Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic about the impact. We know already that the reason the FDA included the exemption option in the first place was because the White House Office of Management and Budget forced it in. As Reuters reported in June: “…OMB turned the FDA’s proposal as it relates to cigars from a two-part rule—one for traditional tobacco products and one for products that have not previously been regulated—into a ‘two-option’ rule, one of which would exempt ‘premium cigars.’”

CRA also noted that while the spending language was “a positive step forward… it does not eliminate the need for an unambiguous Congressional exemption for premium cigars.”

As the FDA continues its review, those like Posey and the CRA say they’re not relenting in their push to remove the threat of FDA oversight. The plan is to reintroduce the legislation in the 114th Congress after it convenes next month.

If you haven’t already done so, there’s no better time to write your representative and senators to let them know you support excluding premium cigars from FDA regulation.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads The Mason Dixon Project Southern Edition

14 Dec 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”


This limited edition, expected to become an annual release, makes quite an impression with a beautiful Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and wonderful room aroma. Made for Crowned Heads by My Father Cigars, the 6-inch stick with a 52 ring gauge is flavorful with some spice, some wood, grass, and a short finish. MSRP is $9.85. It checks in on the lower end of medium strength, so it’s unlikely to please those who want powerhouse smokes. But others should find it an enjoyable experience.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: Crowned Heads

Cigar Tip: Frequent Cigar Questions Asked and Answered

10 Dec 2014

Cigar forums offer a lot. A chance to learn from more experienced smokers. Hear directly from manufacturers and industry leaders occasionally. Arrange a herf with other members. Get involved in trades and box passes.

Aging Cigars

But there are some topics that come up over and over, and I’d like to help address them. I’m sure this article won’t prevent the queries from arising again, though if it results in even a small reduction I’ll consider it a success. Here are three questions I see all the time:

Cellophane on or off?

It’s up to you. Manufacturers use cello to protect cigars against damage in shipping and handling, as well as when they’re on display in shop humdiors. Cellophane offers you that same protection. Don’t worry about the impact on aging. Cellophane allows air to pass through it, slowing the transfer so little you’re unlikely to notice the difference (unless you measure your aging in decades).

Humidity at 60, 65, or 70?

Again, that’s up to you. Most smokers have to experiment to determine the level they prefer. For one thing, the ambient humidity and temperature where you live and smoke can have a strong impact. Nowadays, too, the old 70/70 “rule” isn’t as applicable, since newer humidification methods permit much greater control. But recognize that precisely measuring relative humidity is notoriously difficult, and even good hygrometers can easily get out of whack.

What bundle cigar tastes like a Padrón Anniverary or Opus X or Davidoff or …?

What Japanese compact drives like a Ferrari? What off-the-rack suit fits like one from Savile Row? What budget hotel accommodations match Four Seasons? Sorry, no cheap smokes come any closer in replicating the best in the business. Yes, some cigars are overpriced, but that doesn’t mean all expensive cigars are overpriced. The storied brands have earned their reputations and value through hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and use of the finest materials.

I hope this helps. If you want more on any of these—or other—topics, just click on Tips at the top of the page or use the Search function at the top right for a wealth of information.

P.S. Yes, always store infused cigars separately from regular sticks.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Zino Platinum – The Make Of L.A. Collector’s Edition

4 Dec 2014

Some first impressions from this limited Zino release aren’t the best: marbling wrapper, a light feel in the hand, not much aroma, loose pre-light draw, and Frankenstein-style veins.zino-platinum-la-sq

zino-platinum-laBut remember what your mother told you about looks being deceiving and Bo Diddley’s warning not to judge a book by the cover? They were right. The Make of L.A. Collector’s Edition is a strong, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable cigar.

This limited release—3,000 boxes of 10—follows Davidoff’s marketing strategy to make Zino appealing to a younger, affluent market. Like the earlier Make of New York, the cigar comes in one vitola (6 x 54) and four box designs, these featuring artwork by Burton Machen. It also sports a hefty $18 price tag, though I got a box online for less than half that cost.

The tobacco is an interesting mix of a variety of Dominican fillers with a binder from Yamasa (the region where Davidoff grows Puro d’Oro wrapper leaf). The wrapper is a caramel-colored Ecuadorian Habana.

Construction has generally been good in those I’ve smoked. The draw turned out to be fine and smoke production is excellent. I had a bit of an uneven burn in one, but others performed just fine.

The Make of L.A. begins with a touch of cedar and light spices before opening up to reveal more power. The flavors shift frequently and pleasantly, while the cigar maintains an excellent balance. I found wood, leather, pepper, and honey along the way. Each time I smoked one was more revealing than the last, with new flavors braiding in and out.

The finish is light, perhaps one reason the strength wasn’t immediately apparent. Not that this is a knock-you-in-the-face cigar, but it’s also far from a tap-you-on-the-shoulder stick.

I haven’t smoked enough Zino cigars to say how this release fits among its offerings. Judged on its own, it’s an excellent cigar.

But the obvious drawback is the price. Eighteen dollars for a fat toro is, from nearly anyone’s view, an expensive cigar. For the $7.50 I paid, I’d call it a great buy, a gamble I feel I clearly won, since I’d never had one before. Now, I wish I’d bought two boxes.

If you’re looking for an occasion cigar, pick up a Make of L.A. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, especially if you can take advantage of a markdown.

I give the Zino Platinum Make of L.A. Collector’s Edition a rating of four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: L’Atelier Imports Extension de la Racine ER14

29 Nov 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

The second-year release of this limited edition—an IPCPR exclusive from L’Atelier Imports—is every bit as good as the first, if not perhaps a bit better. With a Nicaraguan sun-grown Criollo ’98 wrapper, Sancti Spíritus binder, and Nicaraguan filler, it’s a smooth, consistent, and generally sweet smoke. The torpedo is 6.125 inches with a 52 ring gauge. You’ll generally find them between $9 and $10, depending on local taxes. Well worth a try.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A


Quick Smoke: Viaje Full Moon 2014

22 Nov 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”IMG_3778 - Version 2San-Lotano-Oval-Conn-sq

This cigar has one of the primary characteristics that I look for in a limited edition: a distinctive taste. After all, what’s the point of a special cigar if it’s basically the same as those that aren’t so special? This year’s Full Moon, a five-inch stick with the same Nicaraguan blend as 2013, boasts a hearty, thick blend of wood, leather, and a bit of coffee bean before a touch of sweetness mingles in during the last third. Much better than eating candy.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: N/A